McKinsey & Company
Mr Andy Holley has 20 years of global experience in strategic and organisational transformation, from rapid growth programs, turnarounds, mergers to digital and agile transformation. He was invited to speak at SME Symposium 2018 as the moderator for the Opening Plenary, and the Leadership Breakout session.
Andy, thank you so much for agreeing to come onboard the Symposium. How has your experience been?
Events like the Symposium do not happen often, and with NTUC bringing together the different stakeholders – government advocates, businesspeople and scholars, the Symposium is special, and a great live example for the framing we put forward during our Leadership breakout session: Leadership is the courage of a community to create its future. The Symposium also fosters frank and open communication in and outside of the rooms, and the thoughts exchanged help to strengthen this community, injecting energy, and building new knowledge and relationships amongst the delegates that will help them be more successful in shaping their own respective business transformations.
You have been through the whole day of activities – moderating the opening plenary, also facilitating the leadership breakout session. Which session left the greatest impression on you?
It is not because I moderated the opening plenary, but I am really grateful for having been surrounded by such a great panel. The panellists complemented each other so well. There is Dr Kar Wong who built his company from scratch to IPO, Kurt Wee leading some cutting-edge innovations and helping ASME to shape the SME business landscape, Jocelyn Chng who internationalized her parents’ traditional soups business and successfully build a highly innovative food business based on technology, Sam Chee Wah who built a very successful high-tech JV with a German family-owned business, and Susan Chong who built her Singapore-based global business with as a highly talent-oriented leader. The panellists had so much experience to share, we could have gone on for much longer.
Ms Wendy Chua has more than 20 years of experience applying psychology to building resilient leaders and communities. An entrepreneur at heart and by family background, Wendy runs her own training and coaching company and is a Senior Affiliate for Aberkyn. She was invited to speak at SME Symposium 2018 for its Leadership Breakout session.
Wendy, thank you so much for your facilitation at the Leadership Breakout Session. What have you observed from your facilitation?
I find that SME leaders are very willing to share their thoughts and experiences when given the opportunity, so as a facilitator, I need to have the courage to probe on the topic in question. They are also very humble to learn not only from the facilitators, but also from their counterparts as well. When both Andy and myself get them going, they learn fast, and delight us with their learnings.
Was there any story from the delegates which moved you greatly?
There was a delegate who would be looking at her team being more reflective – I found the delegate gaining self-awareness, and it was very real. Another was the husband-wife tag team –they came to the Symposium to learn together, and even became coaches to each other; I thought it was sweet as well!
Husband-wife, or family teams are common in SMEs as well!
Yes! And I just thought of this - a lot of SMEs are family-run, or family-founded. It will be great for us to run workshops for family businesses, and I look forward to work with U SME on such collaborations!
Founder, Riverwood Pte Ltd
Born out of a hunch that e-commerce be next big thing, Syafiq Yussoff, started Riverwood seven years ago with just a team of 4 workers and 2 vans. Amidst stiff competition and the volatile business environment, Syafiq pressed on, often seen on the ground to make deliveries, and working consistently to upgrade operations by leveraging on technology.
Today, Riverwood has over 120 workers and more than 60 vehicles,
servicing big-name clients like Amazon Prime and Sephora.
From a 4-man team to
now a team of over 100 in manpower; what has been, and is your HR philosophy
When I first started, all I had in mind was the intent to
hire, and the conscience to create a people-centric work environment where
both management and staff will grow together. Therefore, hiring was all about
the extra hands – followers who take instructions from me. Later, as my
company grew, I realised that it was important to put proper processes in
place, to hire the right people and delegate work according to their
capabilities and expertise. I now look to hire people with leadership traits
and consistently look out for, and work to bridge gaps in our existing
processes to improve service quality.
Presently, Riverwood is empowering our managers to take ownership of the
operational standards and hiring of new talents – ultimately to develop
company leaders. As we progress towards internationalisation, I care about
building a diverse yet collaborative team, and this takes consistent and open
communication to help my staff get better at developing the overall strategic
vision of Riverwood, and to convey and translate this vision to their team
members and customers.
How different is your
style of managing full-time employees, and managing freelancers? What would
be your biggest challenge in managing employees?
I don’t see a difference – whether full-time or freelancer, I
am still managing people. In fact, I see my management style to differ in
terms of communication. How do my managers and myself communicate to staff
effectively, so that we can design and allocate jobs and tasks according to
their respective capabilities, and push them further in terms of personal and
professional development? This takes consistent and open communication
throughout all levels, and I make it a must to master this art, so my
employees can be more flexible in execution and focus on their priorities,
while deriving more satisfaction from what they do.
My biggest challenge is to bridge the gap of communication
between the management and the drivers. We have developed internal programs
which allow cross-level understanding and offer support in all areas. Another
challenge is to help newcomers who have made mid-career switches to the
logistics industry to adapt to their new work style and environment. We
constantly remind each other to be empathetic and considerate.
Riverwood has adopted various technological solutions. How has
technology helped Riverwood, and contributed in having the advantage over
Technology has granted greater flexibility and autonomy to my staff
and is the key to Riverwood’s success. Communications now transcends borders
– video conferencing with international clients, freelancers and even
potential new hires. Digitised documentation makes data storage much easier,
and we are already using Google Analytics to understand the webpage surfing
patterns of visitors to our website, so we can better leverage on the ‘nudge’
in our digital marketing to increase business growth. Regarding client
relationships, we have a sophisticated CRM system that allows my sales team
to track and monitor conversion progress timely. Such information allows us
to work with prospects and solidify client relationships effectively.
We gather feedback from our staff and external stakeholders,
then evaluate, propose and implement changes that aid us in increasing
productivity, efficiency and service quality. This helps to further sharpen
our competitive edge and continue to be a formidable opponent to our
competitors. However, all these cannot be done without technology; technology
is what enables Riverwood to provide our customers with an efficient,
seamless integrated logistics solution.
LinkedIn Power Profiles 2017
Mike brings more than 15 years of progressive HR career to add
value to organisations, education institutions and candidates, driving
tangible outcomes for talent management, job search, career development,
strategic networking, branding, as well as workplace readiness and success. He
is also extensively featured as speakers in campus talks, customised
workshops, large-scale conferences and media.
As a HR practitioner, what has been, or, is your HR
My HR journey has its fair share of ups and downs, adapting HR
practices to help businesses grow. When I first started at a junior level, I
took on a very task-oriented approach, focusing more on operational
excellence and hands-on expertise. I would volunteer to do more and lead
projects across functions when opportunities arose, hence gaining overall
strategic business exposure. As I rose through the ranks progressively, I
found myself spending more time with line management, engaging them and
empowering them to manage and grow their teams better. While strategy was
important, I ensured that what we did counted towards the management understanding
of HR matters, aligning our efforts and supporting them to make good people
decisions. Culture building, change management and line management
capabilities takes priority.
These few years are transformational, as I focus more on leveraging
on technology and analytics, employer branding, strategic talent sourcing,
and business leadership for targeted growth towards the next level.
How has HR evolved over the years, and what are your thoughts
on SME HR activities?
Generically speaking, HR functioning has evolved a lot through
the last few decades, from reactive management to strategic business partnering.
As more business leaders learn leading organisational practices for more
effective workforce planning, they discover the strategic impact of HR on
business results. While the practices have evolved, it takes leadership for
change to be fully realised. However, some companies and organisations have
not progressed; some leaders holding executive positions have not embraced
new HR thoughts, top management resisting changes made to existing strategies
and structures, as well as legacy HR systems and processes.
HR has organised itself around 4 key themes - Administrative
Excellence, Employee Champion, Change Catalyst and Strategic Business
Partnering, balancing the strategic and operational focus, as well as
people-process integration. We commonly see such scales in large
organisations and multinational companies who have available resources to
structure more dedicated teams, as well as deploy models of resource
efficiency and expertise such as shared services and centres of excellence.
The SME HR structure tends to be more generalist in nature,
covering the full spectrum with less manpower, with line management co-leading
certain aspects of HR functions. These are successful examples of HR business
partnering with the business leaders taking more ownership to ensure
efficiency in their teams and business operations. Traditionally, SME HR is
less structured, given the mode of decision making by senior management for
more flexibility, as well as the wide range of activities handled by the HR
If there is one advice you could share with SME bosses and HR
managers on their movements for 2018 and 2019, what would it be, and why?
The volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business
environment today warrants SMEs to apply effective HR strategies to attract,
manage, engage and development. SMEs now carry out a critical mission to put
the right people in place to help drive business results. Businesses also
must learn to understand and prepare their line managers to better handle and
engage the millennium workforce for win-win success.
Expertise and resource constraints are some key barriers for
SME, hence efforts by the government and key HR industry players to provide
more resources and guidance are a big boost towards the right direction. The
key would be to raise the quality of HR leadership in SMEs and innovate the
practices fast enough to ensure optimization of economic competitive
advantages. In alignment with Singapore’s Smart Nation initiatives, SMEs
should continue to look towards transformation with leaner processes and
digitalisation and tap on national HR capability programmes to update SME
leaderships. For a start, SMEs can look to optimise on HR analytics. The goal
for all business leaders and HR practitioners is to ultimately develop a
healthy ecosystem of talent for differentiated candidate and employee
We must to look beyond short-term and fire-fighting; it is
about what can work sustainably better in the near and far future. In short, we
should enhance thought leadership to be future ready.
Creative Director, H2 Hub Pte Ltd
Woo Enyi is the Creative
Director of H2 Hub Pte Ltd, one of the largest watch retail chain stores in
Singapore, and Singapore’s only watch manufacturer. He oversees product
development and marketing in the company. He and his team aim to bring the
company’s own brands - Aries Gold and Wulf to the global arena and put
Singapore’s watchmaking on the world map.
What are your thoughts
about this year’s Budget that was announced earlier on February 19?
This year’s Budget brings good news to businesses. Firstly, I think there is a
fair weightage to continue improving companies’ infrastructure and innovation,
which is important in a fast-changing economy with increased competition
coming from not only the emerging local players but also the international
Secondly, SMEs’ pain point– talent, was addressed by the
Budget with the extension of Wage Credit Scheme (WCS) for the next three
years, as well as upgrade of the Work Trial scheme to the more extensive
Career Trial programme, providing more funding support for workers transiting
to new careers. On the other hand, we are given more time to restructure our
business with the streamlined government assistance schemes available.
By having the right talent and sufficient infrastructure
support using the available schemes, I believe most SMEs still can thrive
despite the extremely challenging economic climate.
Is there a measure introduced at the Budget which would
greatly alleviate your worries with regards to your business?
Enterprise Development Grant would be the measure to alleviate my business worries.
In recent years, I am aware that many companies have focused
on product branding to increase sale figures through the brand’s perceived
value and neglected other important aspects such as product and/or service
quality. However, I reckoned that the
sustainability of a brand can only be ensured by constant innovation and
improvement not only on products, but also reliable customer service and
efficient workflow within the company itself. Part of the improvement process will require consistent
talent development, which is exactly what the Enterprise Development Grant is
to help companies achieve.
Only through continuous effort and innovation that a company
can stay relevant in today's fast-moving market and outdo its competitors.
As a second-generation business owner, has the Budget fully
addressed your concerns? If no, what is/are the specific issue(s) yet to be
We are confident that the Budget would be a springboard for
future growth, allowing us to tackle our challenges head on. But there is
still room for improvement in the following areas which would greatly help
Support for local businesses in the
Personally, I believe that more
emphasis should be placed in helping local businesses to succeed in the
competitive retail market, and not only focus on the manufacturing and services sector.
For example, the relevant agencies could incentivise the owners of retail
malls with substantial subsidies to have a balance of local and international
tenants. This practice is commonly used in one of the biggest retail markets
in the world - China to help increase the retail exposure of local businesses
in prime locations at a subsidised rate.
Assistance to work with freelancers
SMEs fight a gory battle for highly-skilled and competent talent,
the talent be local or foreign manpower. The lack of the right talent to hold
senior management or many technical positions could jeopardise the company's
growth drastically as important business-related decisions have to be made
accurately to avoid any possible financial loss. In fact, most SMEs are forced to outsource critical
responsibilities to freelancers on project basis, incurring additional
manpower costs. This is despite that hiring a competent full-time staff is
obviously a more financially sound decision in the long run. Any assistance to hire these
freelancers can be very helpful for SMEs as the cost would be relatively
cheaper and might even be more effective compared to engaging large
consultancy firms. This is especially true for creative roles, designers and
IT roles, many companies find freelancers extremely helpful in their
progress. As these companies work to improve their employees’ capabilities
progressively over time, they will appreciate more assistance during this
National-level employee rewards
As a business owner, I experience first-hand in managing both
local and foreign staff and sadly, despite the numerous courses and aids
introduced to improve employees' attitude at work, many SMEs still find it
tough to recruit and retain good employees who display positive working
I hereby propose that a subsidy programme for SMEs who look to
reward outstanding employees. Companies enrolled in this programme receive
either funding or incentives to establish a rewards system within their
respective organisations. This is to boost
employee morale, and to enable business owners to identify and maximise full
potential of outstanding employees.
As much as we hope all our needs be fulfilled accordingly, we
are aware of the limitations in planning the national budget and the ‘macro’
perspective in all national planning. Nevertheless, we remain upbeat with
regards to our growth prospects.
As a second-generation business leader, how different are your
views from that of the first-generation leadership, with regards to the
We are proud to say the interaction between our first and
second-generation decision makers is very synergetic despite the generation
difference. With effective communication among ourselves, many differences in
opinions and ideas are resolved constructively.
For the older generation, their main concern is the GST
increase; they view the increase to
negatively impact consumer behaviour and eventually hurt the business in a
long run. Frankly, I do share similar
sentiments; however, I would want to brainstorm on solutions to minimise the
negative impact, and how I can leverage on the various schemes available
through U SME’s business advisory to ride out this GST ‘storm’.
Post-Budget, as part of your business transformation journey,
which measure would you be looking to leverage on?
Moving forward, I am looking at the ASEAN Innovation Network. Through this initiative,
H2Hub can garner greater brand awareness for our homegrown watch brand (Aries
Gold) and expand our regional market presence. I look forward to work with,
and benefit from U SME’s wide array of resources and connections.
CEO and Founder, TheNewSavvy.com
Anna Haotanto is the CEO of The New Savvy - Asia's leading financial and career platform for women. She is part of the founding committee of the Singapore FinTech Association and
heads the Women In FinTech and Partnership Committee. Anna is the President
of the Singapore Management University Women
She is passionate about finance, education, women empowerment,
and children’s issues.
How did The New Savvy come about, and how have your personal
experiences influenced you as an entrepreneur?
Firstly, due to my family’s financial situation, the idea of
making my money work harder for me really fascinated me, and I felt that was
a way out for me from living pay cheque to pay cheque and feeling very
stressed every month. My junior college days shaped me into who I am today; I
read extensively on finance and had done volunteer work to realise women
suffer as they are not financially independent and unable to protect
themselves financially. I studied, and worked in finance where I learned
financial management and economic ideas. This was how I built a comfortable
portfolio for myself.
If proper financial knowledge and planning worked for
me, it would work for many women too - which was why I started The New
Savvy. I have wanted to do this since 2010, and finance is the best way I
know how I can help women – my pet cause. I am passionate about financial
literacy and how it can transform lives. Although the rewards are probably
intangible, but I am much happier than before.
Do share with us about your journey as a female entrepreneur,
and what were the difficulties you encountered?
The entrepreneurial journey is lonely, ambiguous and requires
sacrifice. I gave up a five-figure income to start The New Savvy; some people
told me not to be naïve and “get a real job”. I was wondering, should I just
continue with my banking job? But, what about my passion and aspirations? My
morale dipped to new lows. When I shared the idea with people, most people
dismissed me, thinking that it would be just another blog, Or, they think the
focus on women would limit The New Savvy’s progression; on the contrary, I
was advised to not make it as broad to ensure more website traffic.
I struggled a lot; I did everything from scratch – developing
websites, producing content, digital marketing... I worked till 4am daily,
and my family and friends were worried about me overworking myself! So many
mistakes were made; but that is life, isn’t it? You falter, but you pick
yourself up. And there comes the marketing aspect - how do I market
TheNewSavvy.com to ensure that more women are aware that my product exists? Most
importantly, this difficulty had been in my mind non-stop since I embarked on
this journey - How do I make women more interested in financial literacy?
We have come a long way – now we produce original and relevant
content which is engaging and relevant, and we have our own Retirement and
Mortgage calculators that are fun and easy to use.
One interview of yours carried by efinancialcareers.com was titled “Asian fintech is a man’s world. But I’m now trying to change
that.” Any words of encouragement
you have for our U SME women leaders?
Be focused on the
goals you want to achieve and have a detailed plan on how you are going to
achieve those goals.
Spend lesser than you
budgeted because you always need more money.
openly. Keep improving yourself by learning new technology and upgrading your
Have resilience and
grit to keep going when the world crashes. Don’t dwell on unconstructive
thoughts or wallow in self-pity.
Exercise often and
take care of yourself. Be kind and have lots of fun! ;)
have built a small but strong team for The New Savvy. Beyond the startup
phase, what are your goals for The New Savvy to create more impact not only
as an online platform, but as a company and organisation?
New Savvy is currently Asia's leading financial, investments and career
platform for women. Our bold vision is to empower 100 million women to
achieve financial happiness. We deliver high-quality content through
education, conferences and media. We will have an e-learning platform, personal
finance planning app and e-commerce store.
In the future, we want to bring women through the spectrum of personal
finance. From a woman who has never thought of managing her finances to a
beginner investor to being comfortable about her finances. Finally, we want
our impact to also focus on how the women whose lives The New Savvy had
changed will pay it forward to the other females in her life.
CEO and Co-founder of SuperSteam Asia Pacific Pte Ltd
Together with his wife Michelle, Dylan founded SuperSteam Asia Pacific in 2002. He is the proud father of 69 that includes 3 young children with Michelle and 66 members of the SuperSteam family.
Use a word to describe 2017?
Fulfilling! SuperSteam’s celebrated our 15th Anniversary in 2017 and are grateful to our customers and suppliers who have supported us. Last year, we achieved 3 ISO certifications (ISO 9001, ISO 14001 OHSA18001) to serve our customers better.
To complete with last year’s tough competition, we focused on innovation. We launched one of the bestselling scrubbing machines - the MMG. We also conducted a series of successful MasterClasses on the latest cleaning technology. SuperSteam also experienced an expansion in our company strength.
Is there an issue or challenge previously not addressed, which you intend to resolve it this year?
We have a company vision of impacting a billion lives through cleaning technology. In line with our company vision, we are embarking on a journey of renewal and transformation this year. We held our first off-site management workshop to realign our goals as well as to foster leadership and teamwork amongst the management team. This process will help in the systematisation of SuperSteam and its efficiencies.
What word would you use to express your aspirations for the year ahead?
Driven! 2018 will be an exciting time for SuperSteam as we move out of our comfort zone with R&D but we believe that we can grow and expand into new sectors that require our cleaning know-how. We want to improve another million lives with cleaning technology.
Behind Supersteam’s success is a healthy company culture; what is Supersteam’s HR philosophy?
One of SuperSteam’s values is to keep learning and improving. This year we implemented more HR policies such as yearly performance appraisals and a clear job progression path. The appraisals provide an ideal platform for staff and management to exchange feedback. We regularly send our staff on relevant upgrading courses, as we believe in nurturing our own talents and promoting from within. It is often more seamless for staff to transit between roles in the company as they are already familiar with the business processes. The framework that U SME provides for the training of staff is extremely useful to SMEs looking to future-proof their businesses.
Managing Partner, Happy Marketer
Prantik has trained and advised more than 500 enterprises in the Asia-Pacific region on digital strategies to drive business transformation. His clients include Bloomberg, Tigerair, Standard Chartered Bank, Starbucks, and more.
Use a word to describe 2017?
Transparency. There have been a lot of calls for transparency among my clients, partners and associates, concerning media pricing, where ads show up… clients want as much transparency as possible.
What was your greatest learning moment in 2017?
I did some work in China and realised how China has become a digital leader rather than a follower. I was extremely impressed and am fairly convinced that China is a creator rather than a copier, especially in mobile – WeChat as an example.
Another learning was about the fake news movement, and marketers are concerned about how authentic media platforms are. Marketers should worry about how sound their strategy is, and not be dependent on the platforms and metrics for measurement.
What are your thoughts on SME marketing activities?
I find SMEs very short-term focused and tactical, especially when it comes to digital, with almost unrealistic expectations. It seems that SMEs haven’t understood the power of digital and hence, unwilling to commit resources. There is a lack of planning and awareness.
The gap between SME marketers and agency marketers. Agency marketers have much more exposure and have chances for formal training; better knowledge on utilising digital marketing. I’m not seeing marketers on the clients’ side catching up. Education is a critical component, not only at marketing level, but at the senior management level. Lot more dialogue and education with senior management is imperative, they be key for SMEs to understand digital.
What would you advise SME leaders and marketers for their movements in 2018?
We are hearing the government talk about adopting digital to boost productivity, but the senior leadership must first change their mindset towards digital, take ownership by assessing digital’s impact on business and ultimately, to drive sales with marketing. Digital is a company-wide effort, and marketing is a good starting point.
SME marketers may not be as well-exposed as their agency counterparts. They should invest in learning and eventually know what they want to achieve in their marketing efforts through data-driven story telling -
be able to analyse numbers, use software to visualise data, and present insights with such data.